Neutropenia (Adult) Information for You
Neutrophils are white blood cells, which help our bodies to fight infection. A normal neutrophil count is 1,700 - 7,500. When these cells are low, you have neutropenia. If the neutrophils are less than 500 there is greater risk for infection.
Chemotherapy, radiation, or your disease can cause neutropenia. You need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of infection when you have a low white blood cell count.
Signs and Symptoms of Infection
Call your doctor right away if you have any of these signs or symptoms!
- Fever, temperature of 100.8°F or 38.2°C. or low grade fevers of 100° F for more than 24 hours. (Take your temperature in the morning and in the evening).
- Shaking chills
- Chest congestion or cold symptoms
- Sore throat
- Sores in mouth
- Sinus pain
- Problems with urination
- Loose bowel movements
- Inflamed hemorrhoids
- Pimples or boils on the skin (may appear without pus, because white blood cells are needed to make pus)
- If you have a venous access device (i.e. HICKMAN® catheter, PICC, GROSHONG® catheter, or Port) report any swelling, redness, pain at catheter site or along tunnel area or drainage from exit site.
What to Do
- Wash your hands often, before making meals, eating. and after using the bathroom. This is the best way to prevent infection.
- Perform mouth care often with a soft toothbrush. If you wear dentures, clean twice a day.
- Keep your skin dry and clean, under your arms, groin, and rectal areas.
- Do not eat foods that may contain bacteria. Avoid unwashed raw fruit or vegetables. See HFFY #5235 for Healthy Eating With Low White Counts
- Avoid people who are ill with colds, flu, and chicken pox.
- Avoid large crowds, such as at shopping malls.
- Do not smoke and avoid people who do smoke.
- Do not put anything in your rectum before checking with your doctor.
- Avoid cleaning birdcages, fish tanks, or cat litter boxes.
- At certain times you may need to wear a mask, (see below).
When to wear your mask
If you are in the hospital and have neutropenia or are less than 100 days post-transplant, you must wear a mask when you are out of your room. You must also wear it when you come to the clinic. If you are in a public place, (church, mall, sports event, etc.) you should wear a mask.
What type of mask to wear
Kimberly Clark PCM 2000 filtration mask (If this mask is too large, then a smaller sized mask, N-95 should be worn).
How to wear the mask
- The upper and lower edges of the mask are snug to your face.
- The elastic bands are placed so that one is on the base of the skull and the other is near the top of your head (see picture below).
- The nose -piece must be pinched down to snugly fit the bridge of your nose.
- There should not be gaps between the mask and your face.
Your nurse will help fit your mask and give you a supply for at home. You can purchase more masks from your local drug store.
Masks may be reused. Store in a clean dry place. Change your mask if:
- It is moist or will not keep its shape.
- You wear it for more than a total of 8 hours
How Infections Are Treated
Oral or IV antibiotics may be given.
- Contact your doctor or nurse with questions on when to resume sexual activity.
- Do not have more than one sex partner.
- Do not have anal intercourse.
- Do not use an intrauterine device for birth control.
- Use a condom.
Dr._______________may be reached from________a.m. to________p.m.
at__________________or feel welcome to call________________________.
The Spanish version of this Health Facts for You is #6248.
HICKMAN® and GROSHONG® are registered trademarks of C.R. Bard, Inc. and its related company, BCR, Inc.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 06/16/2011
Copyright © 06/16/2011 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4577
Print Health Fact For You